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Artist of the month: August 2015

Charles Gere RA (1869-1957)

Published 1 August 2015

A prominent member of ‘The Birmingham Group’, Charles Gere RA was inspired by the medieval period and lead the revival of tempera painting.

  • Charles Gere was born in Gloucester and trained at the Birmingham School of Art under E.R. Taylor, becoming part of a group of artist-craftsmen known as ‘The Birmingham Group’, who were inspired by the work of Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. They admired the art and style of the medieval period and specialised in a range of craft techniques, particularly in tempera painting which experienced a revival among the Birmingham school of artists.

    For a period, Gere practiced in portrait painting, book illustration, stained glass and embroidery design, but gradually came to work almost exclusively as a landscape painter.

  • Charles Gere RA, The Wye at Lancant

    Charles Gere RA, The Wye at Lancant, 1934.

    Oil on canvas. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • In 1904 he settled in Gloucestershire, and aside from occasional trips to North Italy and Switzerland, his main focus was views of the Cotswolds countryside. Inspired by the landscapes of Edward Calvert and Samuel Palmer, Gere’s work exhibits a fresh and reverent depiction of nature while the simple, flat linear forms suggest an Eastern aesthetic in keeping with his Arts and Crafts training.

    Gere specialised in the use of tempera as a medium, a technique favoured by Italian Renaissance painters and which he was inspired to use after a visit to Florence. Much of Gere’s tempera work is painted on silk, indicating the refinement he achieved in this medium, a fine example being his work The Blue Lake at Sierre (pictured). This was probably painted from sketches made on a tour of Switzerland in the summer of 1938.

  • Charles Gere RA, The Blue Lake at Sierre

    Charles Gere RA, The Blue Lake at Sierre, 1938.

    Tempera on silk laid on canvas. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • Tempera is made using a mixture of egg with pigment and is most suited as a studio medium, as it dries much faster that oil paint and must be applied quickly to the painting’s surface. Gere would make pencil sketches outdoors in front of his chosen subject and trained his memory to work from these when completing the work in the studio afterwards. Taking advantage of the absorbent effect of tempura on fabric, Gere used swift brushstrokes to create textured patterns and strokes.

    Gere’s work unites the two aesthetic traditions of English landscape painting and the Arts and Crafts movement; his tempera painting was described as “aglow with the sunlight of the South” while his situation in the heart Gloucestershire proved his true vocation as a landscape painter in the spirit of the English poetic tradition.

  • Charles Gere RA, The Mill Pool at Painswick

    Charles Gere RA, The Mill Pool at Painswick, 1945.

    Oil on board. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.